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Monthly Archives: January 2015

Workplace Harassment Still a Major Problem Experts Tell EEOC at Meeting

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EEOC Chair Announces Task Force to Develop Strategies to Prevent and Correct Harassment

WASHINGTON-Workplace harassment is alleged in approximately 30 percent of all charges filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), according to EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang, who presided over the first commission meeting of her tenure today. Newly sworn in Commissioner Charlotte Burrows was present at the meeting, bringing the EEOC back to full strength of five commissioners.

“The EEOC is working to leverage our resources to have a greater impact on the persistent problem of workplace harassment,” said Yang. “By identifying underlying problems in workplaces and industries where we see recurring patterns of harassment, we are developing strategies that focus on targeted outreach and education as well as systemic enforcement to promote broader voluntary compliance.”

In the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement plan for FY2013-2016, the Commission recognized that an outreach campaign aimed at both educating employers and employees is an important strategy to deter future violations. “Preventing harassment from occurring in the first place is far preferable to remedying its consequences,” Yang said.

To achieve these goals, Yang announced that she is establishing a task force, co-chaired by Commissioners Chai Feldblum and Victoria Lipnic, to convene experts from the employer community, workers’ advocates, human resources experts, academics, and others in a broader effort to identify effective strategies that work to prevent and remedy harassment in the workplace. “Through this task force we hope to better reach workers to ensure they know their rights and to better reach employers to promote best practices,” Yang said.

The serious impact that harassment can have on employees was brought poignantly to life by the testimony of Sean Ratliff, a trial attorney in the EEOC’s Denver field office who litigated a major harassment case against Dart Energy, an oil company; and Laudente Montoya, one of the individuals affected by the harassment.

Ratliff described a workplace where derogatory and demeaning ethnic and racial slurs were directed against African American, Hispanic and Native American employees. Complaints about the harassment to a supervisor were ignored. At times, the harassment took the form of dangerous “games” played on the minority workers, such as asking one Hispanic employee to put his hand down a hole where there was a drill going, or trying to shake an African American employee off of a two story rig.

Montoya, who lost his job shortly after complaining of the harassment, told the Commission, “Working that job was one of the worst times in my life. It became so that I could hardly bring myself to go to work in the morning. I even saw my doctor about it.”

The lawsuit ended with a settlement, which included numerous and specific training and posting requirements about equal employment and the right to work free from harassment. Additionally, the 17 men affected were awarded $1.2 million.

Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President of the National Women’s Law Center, told the Commission that while one in four women face harassment in the workplace, many are loath to report it. “Workers in low-wage jobs often have little bargaining power and can least afford to risk their livelihoods by reporting harassment,” she said. “And women who have succeeded in breaking into higher-paid, nontraditional jobs have already overcome many hurdles, including cultural biases against their participation in nontraditional fields. Because of the significant barriers to entry, women who suffer harassment in nontraditional jobs may be especially unlikely to report harassment for fear of retaliation.”

Individuals with disabilities are also subjected to harassment, Jane Kow, Principal of HR Law Consultants said. Kow underscored “the need for training of managers, supervisors, and co-workers alike about the repercussions when mistreating employees with disabilities, as well as the company’s obligation to provide reasonable accommodations.” Kow also discussed the impact of social media. “The ease and speed of posting or responding to the proliferation of messages and images on social media has spawned employee complaints of harassment, defamation, violation of a right to privacy and a host of other claims,” said Kow. “None of this was even imaginable in 1964 when Title VII was enacted.”

Many speakers agreed that the best way to combat harassment of all types was though awareness and training at all levels of employment and management. Patricia Wise, a partner with Niehaus Wise & Kalas Ltd, a law firm representing employers, and also active in the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), provided a helpful overview of employer best practices to prevent and address harassment.

Having a policy is insufficient if it is not communicated understandably to the workforce, Carol Miaskoff, Acting Associate Legal Counsel of the EEOC testified. For example, in a workforce that includes many teens, the policy should be understandable to the average high school student.

The Commission will hold open the meeting record for 15 days, and invites audience members, as well as other members of the public, to submit written comments on any issues or matters discussed at the meeting. Public comments may be mailed to Commission Meeting, EEOC Executive Officer, 131 M Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20507, or emailed to: Commissionmeetingcomments@eeoc.gov.

The public comments submitted will be made available to members of the Commission and to Commission staff working on the matters discussed at the meeting. In addition, comments may be publicly disclosed on the EEOC’s public website, in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, or in the Commission’s library. By providing public comments in response to this solicitation, commenters are consenting to their use and consideration by the Commission and to their public dissemination. Accordingly, commenters should not include any information in submitted comments that they would not want made public, e.g., home address, telephone number, etc. Also note that when comments are submitted by e-mail, the sender’s e-mail address automatically appears on the message.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. More information about the EEOC, including panelists’ statements, biographies and a transcript of this meeting, can be found at www.eeoc.gov.

Charlotte Burrows Sworn In as EEOC Commissioner

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Bipartisan Federal Agency Restored to Full Capacity

WASHINGTON – Charlotte A. Burrows was sworn in today as Commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced this morning. Burrows was nominated by President Obama on Sept. 12, 2014, and was confirmed on Dec. 3, 2014 by a Senate vote of 93-2 to serve as Commissioner, for a term expiring July 1, 2019.

Burrows fills the slot created when former Chair Jacqueline Berrien’s term and holdover period expired in August 2015, and restores the Commission to its full complement. Burrows joins Chair Jenny R. Yang and Commissioners Constance Barker, Chai Feldblum and Victoria Lipnic to complete the five-member presidentially appointed bipartisan Commission.

“I am pleased to welcome Charlotte Burrows to this vitally important agency,” said EEOC Chair Jenny Yang. “Her combined experience in civil and constitutional rights, coupled with her service as a trial attorney, will be great assets to the agency, and I look forward to working with her and my other colleagues on the commission to promote equal opportunity for all.”

Prior to her appointment at the EEOC, Burrows served as associate Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice (DOJ), where she worked on a broad range of legal and policy issues, including employment litigation, tribal justice, voting rights, and implementation of the Violence Against Women Act, among others.

Burrows previously served as general counsel for Civil and Constitutional Rights to Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in 2009, and on the Senate Judiciary Committee from 2007 to 2008, after having served as legal counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee from 2003 to 2007.

Before working on Capitol Hill, Burrows served in the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section at DOJ first as a trial attorney, and later as special litigation counsel and then as deputy chief. She served as a judicial clerk for the Honorable Timothy K. Lewis of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and an associate at Debevoise & Plimpton.

Burrows received an A.B. from Princeton University and a J.D. from Yale Law School.

“I am honored to serve as a Commissioner of the EEOC,” said Burrows. “I’m eager to begin working with my talented and dedicated colleagues in fulfilling the agency’s mission of ensuring workplace equality for all.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov

EEOC Sues Triangle Catering for Religious Discrimination

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Raleigh Company Unlawfully Fired Rastafarian Because He Refused to Remove His Religious Head Covering, Federal Agency Charges

RALEIGH, N.C. – Triangle Catering, LLC, a catering and event planning company based in Raleigh, violated federal law by failing to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs and fired him because of his religion, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today.

The EEOC says Michael Reddick, Jr. had been a practicing Rastafarian for more than 15 years. As a Rastafarian, Reddick holds the sincere religious belief that he must keep his head covered to prevent his spiritual energy from escaping into the atmosphere. In accordance with this belief, Reddick wears a small cap, which he refers to as a “crown,” to cover his head. Reddick was hired as a delivery driver on December 2013. Shortly after he was hired, the company informed Reddick that he would have to remove his head covering while working for the company. Reddick told Triangle Catering that he could not remove his head covering because of his religious beliefs. The company ultimately fired Reddick for refusing to remove his head covering.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to attempt to make reasonable accommodations to the sincerely held religious beliefs of employees as long as doing so poses no undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina (EEOC v. Triangle Catering, LLC, Civil Action No. 5:15cv00016) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Reddick, as well as injunctive relief.

“No person should be forced to choose between his religion and his job when the company can provide an accommodation without suffering an undue hardship,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office, which includes the EEOC’s Raleigh Area Office, where the charge was filed. “This case demonstrates the EEOC’s continued commitment to fighting religious discrimination in the workplace.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov

EEOC Announces “Chair’s Message” Online

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Chair Jenny Yang Pens First in Series of Articles on the Work of the Agency

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced the first “Chair’s Message” on www.eeoc.gov devised by Chair Jenny Yang to provide the public with information about the work of the EEOC, including best practices and insights on how to prevent, stop and remedy workplace discrimination, among other information. Today’s post is the first in a regular series by Chair Yang.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available at www.eeoc.gov.

EZEFLOW USA, Inc. Will Pay $65,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

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Pipe Fittings Manufacturer Fired Disabled Veteran Instead of Providing a Reasonable Accommodation, Federal Agency Said

PITTSBURGH – EZEFLOW USA, a pipe fitting manufacturer located in New Castle, Pa., will pay $65,000 and provide significant equitable relief to resolve a federal disability discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.

The EEOC charged that Iraq and Afghanistan U.S. Marine Corps veteran Adam Brant, who worked as a maintenance technician, requested six weeks of unpaid medical leave when he experienced seizures caused by service-related disabilities. EZEFLOW USA denied the request because Brant was still a probationary employee. Even though EZEFLOW USA maintains a policy of providing up to 26 weeks of paid leave to non-probationary employees, the company refused to provide Brant with unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation and fired him because of his disability, according to the lawsuit.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. EZEFLOW USA, Inc., Civil Action No 02:14-cv-527) in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the $65,000 in monetary relief to Brant, the 28-month consent decree resolving the lawsuit prohibits EZEFLOW USA from engaging in disability discrimination or retaliation. The company will revise its policies to ensure that probationary employees with disabilities are given unpaid leave when needed as a reasonable accommodation. EZEFLOW USA will also provide training on the ADA, report to the EEOC regarding its compliance with the consent decree and post a notice about the settlement.

“This case is significant because it demonstrates that even probationary employees may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the ADA,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. “An employer must provide a reasonable accommodation unless it can show that doing so would cause a significant difficulty or expense.”

Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office added, “We owe all of our veterans our gratitude for their sacrifices, but especially those with service-related disabilities. Mr. Brant honorably served our country as a Marine and only needed a brief period of unpaid leave to treat his disability and remain employed. I am pleased that EZEFLOW USA worked with us to resolve this lawsuit quickly and that the company will also provide affirmative relief to protect all employees from disability discrimination.”

The EEOC has issued two revised publications addressing veterans with disabilities and the ADA. The Guide for Employers explains how protections for veterans with service-connected disabilities differ under the ADA and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). It explains how employers can prevent disability-based discrimination and provide reasonable accommodations.

The Guide for Wounded Veterans answers questions that veterans with service-related disabilities may have about the protections available when they seek to return to their former jobs or look for civilian jobs. The publication also explains the kinds of accommodations that may be necessary to help veterans with disabilities obtain and successfully maintain employment.

The EEOC Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. The legal staff of the EEOC Philadelphia District Office also prosecutes discrimination cases arising from Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

EEOC Sues DHD Ventures and Affiliated Companies for Racial Harassment and Retaliation

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Real Estate Management Company Fired Employees After Complaining About Harassment, Federal Agency Charges

GREENVILLE, S.C. – DHD Ventures Management Company, Inc., a New York-based real estate management company, violated federal law when it subjected two black employees to a racially hostile work environment, then terminated them in retaliation for their complaints of discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed yesterday.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, from late 2007 through November 2011, Charles Lesine and Marlin Ware worked at Grandeagle Apartments, a residential complex in Greenville, S.C., that was managed by DHD Ventures Management Company. During that period, they were subjected to racial harassment, including continuous racial slurs made by a coworker. The complaint alleges Lesine and Ware were called “n***r” or “nigga” on a near-daily basis by the coworker. Although Lesine and Ware made multiple complaints to the coworker and to management, the racial epithets continued. The agency says the men were terminated in November 2011 due to their complaints.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial harassment in the workplace and protects employees who oppose racial harassment and race discrimination. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Greenville Division (EEOC v. DHD Ventures Management Company, Inc., et. al, Case No. 6:15-cv-00102-TMC-KFM) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary relief, including back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief for Lesine and Ware.

“Companies must take prompt action to stop harassment in response to complaints of racial slurs being used in the workplace,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “Firing the complaining employee because of his or her complaint is never the correct response and is a violation of federal law.”

DHD Ventures Management Company, Inc. operated as an integrated business enterprise with DHD Ventures NC, LLC and DHD Ventures, LLC.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.

Carolina Metal Finishing Will Pay $40,000 to Settle EEOC Racial Harassment Lawsuit

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Bishopville Plant Subjected African-American Employee to Racial Abuse and Fired Him for Complaining, Federal Agency Charged

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Carolina Metal Finishing, LLC, a Bishopville, S.C. based metal finishing company, will pay $40,000 and furnish significant remedial relief to settle a race harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

Tieron L. Parks worked as a powder coater at the Bishopville plant. According to the EEOC’s complaint, from around October 2011 until around May 21, 2012, Parks was repeatedly subjected to racial slurs by two white employees. The comments included repeated use of the “N-word.” The EEOC alleged Parks complained to company management, but the harassment continued. Within hours of his final complaint on or around May 21, 2012, Parks was fired, the EEOC said, in retaliation for his complaints of racial harassment.

Race discrimination, including racial harassment, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII also protects employees and applicants from retaliation for making complaints about discrimination. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Columbia Division (EEOC v. Carolina Metal Finishing, LLC, Civil Action No. 3:14-CV-03815-MBS-PJG) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to paying $40,000 in monetary relief, the company must abide by the terms of a two-year consent decree resolving the case. The consent decree enjoins Carolina Metal from engaging in future racial discrimination. The decree also requires the company to conduct anti-discrimination training at its Bishopville facility; post a notice about the settlement at that facility; implement a formal anti-discriminatory policy prohibiting racial discrimination; and report certain complaints of conduct that could constitute discrimination under Title VII to the EEOC for monitoring.

“We are pleased that Carolina Metal Finishing settled this case, and that the company will provide training to employees on federal anti-discrimination laws,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “Racial discrimination remains a problem in today’s workplaces and a major concern to our agency. The EEOC will continue to fight for the rights of employees affected by such illegal employment practices.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.

Kaufman Children’s Center Sued by EEOC for Disability Discrimination

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Disabled Employee Barred from Returning to Work after Medical Leave, Federal Agency Charges

DETROIT – Kaufman Children’s Center violated federal law when it terminated an employee with a disability returning to work from a medical leave absence, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the lawsuit, Kaufman Children’s Center refused to let the employee, an Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Therapist, return to work in a light duty capacity or offer the employee another reasonable accommodation after she was off work due to a serious cardiac condition. When she sought to return to her previous position, Kaufman Children’s Center formally fired her because of her disability, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Kaufman Children’s Center for Speech, Language, Sensory-motor, & Social connections, Inc., Case No. 2:14-cv-14947) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan after first seeking to reach a voluntary settlement through its pre-litigation conciliation process. The Commission seeks to recover monetary compensation for the fired employee, including back pay and compensatory damages for emotional distress, as well as punitive damages.

“Employers violate the ADA when they ignore requests for a reasonable accommodation and terminate employees because they are disabled,” explained Nedra Campbell, trial attorney for the EEOC. “Kaufman Children’s Center had a duty to determine if it could accommodate this employee,” she added.

Kaufman Children’s Center for Speech, Language, Sensory-motor, & Social Connections, Inc. is a Michigan company that specializes in providing services to autistic children (www.kidspeech.com).

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

Shipley’s Do-Nuts Franchise Sued by EEOC for Pregnancy Discrimination and Retaliation

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Company Forced Pregnant Employee To Take Unpaid Leave, Provide Medical Release, Then Fired Her When She Opposed The Demand, Federal Agency Says

HOUSTON – D & S Shipley Donuts d/b/a Shipley’s Do-Nuts, a Katy-area franchise of Shipley’s Do-Nuts, violated federal anti-discrimination laws when it forced an employee whom it suspected of being pregnant, to take unpaid leave until she was cleared by a doctor indicating that she could work despite her pregnancy, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today. When the employee failed to provide a release, and after she and her mother disputed the legality of the requirement, the employee was fired in retaliation.

The EEOC’s suit alleged that the owner of Shipley’s Do-Nuts confronted Brooke Foley based on informal reports by other employees that she was pregnant. In an impromptu meeting attended by two other employees, the owner asked Foley intrusive personal questions about whether she was pregnant, which Foley refused to answer. At that point, the owner took Foley off the schedule and told she could not return (and therefore not get paid), until she provided a doctor’s note allowing her to work and assuring Shipley’s she did not have a “high risk” pregnancy.

The lawsuit further alleged that the same day as the confrontation with the owner, Foley’s mother, acting on her daughter’s behalf, confronted the owner about the legality of the release requirement. The following day, Foley was fired by a supervisor over the phone alleging she failed to report to work, despite her having been removed from the schedule.

Such alleged actions violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex or pregnancy and also prohibits retaliation against an employer for opposing an illegal workplace practice. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 4:14-cv-03712) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks an injunction, back pay with pre-judgment interest, reinstatement, compensatory damages and punitive damages.

“The Pregnancy Discrimination Act ensures that female employees are not forced out of the workplace because of their pregnancy. The decision of whether a pregnant employee should remain gainfully employed during her pregnancy rests solely upon her,” said Martin Ebel, acting director of the EEOC’s Houston District Office.

Jim Sacher, EEOC’s regional attorney in Houston, explained, “The Supreme Court has made clear that the employee alone is responsible for making decisions that affect her safety and that of her future offspring. An employer who forces leave on a pregnant employee violates federal law. The law also prohibits retaliation against an employee for opposing unlawful attempts to interfere with that decision-making.”

Shipley’s Do-Nuts, the franchisor, has approximately 300 company-owned and franchised stores in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee. This Shipley’s franchise owns and operates at least three restaurants in or around Katy, Texas, a suburb of Houston.

The EEOC’s Houston District Office is located on the sixth floor of the Total Building at 1201 Louisiana St. in Houston.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC and the laws it enforces is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.

What You Should Know about the EEOC and Enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act

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July 26, 2014 is the 24th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. Title 1 of the ADA makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against qualified job applicants and employees based on their physical or mental disabilities. The law also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to job applicants and employees who need them because of their disabilities, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business. These requirements apply to businesses with 15 or more employees, and state and local governments.

We are proud of our efforts to enforce this landmark law and will continue to work to eradicate disability discrimination. To that end, the Commission recently adopted a Strategic Enforcement Plan, identifying certain emerging issues under the ADA as a national enforcement priority.

Since EEOC began enforcing the ADA in July 1992 the number of charges alleging disability discrimination has grown from just over 15,000 in FY 1993 to near 26,000 last fiscal year. Through the resolution of these charges during the investigatory process and conciliation, the EEOC has obtained millions of dollars in monetary benefits, most recently obtaining $109.2 million for the victims of disability discrimination in FY 2013. A few recent and notable conciliations are highlighted below:
•A nationwide systemic investigation of a major retail establishment was successfully resolved by a conciliation agreement when the employer agreed to pay $2.3 million to a class of 76 individuals whom the EEOC found were denied reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Under the agreement, the employer has also agreed to make significant changes to its reasonable accommodation policies and practices nationwide; to conduct issue specific training for employees on the ADA and reasonable accommodations.
•In an ADA leave policy case, the Chicago District conciliated a charge for over $1.6 million. Approximately 2,000 individuals were affected by the employer’s nationwide policy of denying additional leave as a reasonable accommodation for a disability. The conciliation agreement included provisions requiring the employer to revise its disability leave policy at all of its facilities nationwide, post a notice for all employees, conduct ADA training for all managers, supervisors and Human Resources personnel and EEOC monitoring of any revisions or modifications of its leave policy for the term of the agreement.

Since July 2013 alone, the Commission has filed more than 50 lawsuits alleging disability discrimination. The Commission filed these lawsuits to seek relief for discrimination victims with a variety of impairments, including cancer (e.g., breast cancer, basal cell carcinoma, and colon cancer), dwarfism, epilepsy, deafness, blindness, retinitis pigmentosa, Fuchs Endothelial Dystrophy, Usher’s Syndrome, traumatic brain injury, HIV, multiple sclerosis, spinal stenosis, neuropathy, herniated discs and other back impairments, diabetes, anemia, coronary artery disease, end-stage renal disease, PTSD, narcolepsy, depression, anxiety disorder, and dyslexia.

The alleged discrimination has included failure to provide reasonable accommodation (including the failure to provide appropriate leave for disability-related needs or treatment); asking prohibited disability-related questions of employees; refusing to hire qualified applicants based on myths, fears, or stereotypes concerning certain impairments, and discharging qualified workers on the basis of disability.

A few notable cases addressed by courts or resolved over the past year are highlighted below:
•EEOC v. Hill Country Farms. The EEOC obtained the largest award ever under the ADA and the largest award in the history of the EEOC – $240 million for the class of men with intellectual disabilities. The EEOC alleged that a food processing plant in Iowa subjected a group of 32 workers with intellectual disabilities to a hostile work environment, discriminatory pay, and other discriminatory terms of employment for many years. Specifically, the company paid the men only $65 a month for full-time work, subjected them to abusive verbal and physical harassment, restricted their freedom of movement, required them to live in deplorable and sub-standard living conditions, and failed to provide adequate medical care. In September 2012, the court entered partial judgment for the EEOC and ordered the company to pay class members $1.3 million in back pay for work they performed between 2007 and 2009. In May 2013, a jury returned a verdict of $240 million for the class (reduced by the court to $1.6 million because of the ADA’s damages cap). Ultimately, the court ordered payment of $3.4 million for the class members. In May 2014, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the entry of judgment in favor of the EEOC.
•In EEOC v. Ford Motor Company. The EEOC sued Ford Motor charging that the company’s denial of a particular employee’s request to work from home up to four days a week as an accommodation for her irritable bowel syndrome violated the ADA. Harris was a resale steel buyer whose job primarily required telephone and computer contact with coworkers and suppliers. Ford’s telecommuting policy authorized employees to work up to four days a week from a telecommuting site. The district court granted summary judgment for Ford Motor, holding that attendance at the job site was an essential function of the employee’s job, and that her disability-related absences meant that she was not a “qualified” individual under the ADA. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the lower court, explaining that “the law must respond to the advance of technology in the employment context . . . and recognize that the ‘workplace’ is anywhere that an employee can perform her job duties.” The Appeals Court held that the “highly fact-specific” question was whether presence at the Ford facilities was truly essential, and that a jury should decide that issue.
•EEOC v. Princeton Healthcare. The EEOC sued Princeton HealthCare System (PHCS), alleging that its fixed leave policy failed to consider leave as a reasonable accommodation, in violation of the ADA. According to the EEOC, since PHCS’s leave policy merely tracked the requirements of the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees who were not eligible for FMLA leave were fired after being absent for a short time, and many more were fired once they were out more than 12 weeks. Under the consent decree settling the suit PHCS will pay $1,350,000, which the EEOC will distribute to employees who were unlawfully terminated under PHCS’s former policy. PHCS also is prohibited from having a blanket policy that limits the amount of leave time an employee covered by the ADA may take. PHCS must instead engage in an interactive process with covered employees, including employees with a disability related to pregnancy, when deciding how much leave is needed. In addition, PHCS can no longer require employees returning from disability leave to present a fitness for duty certification stating that they are able to return to work without any restrictions. PHCS also agreed that it will not subject employees to progressive discipline for ADA-related absences, and will provide training on the ADA to its workforce.

Other significant resolutions of EEOC cases involving leave and attendance policies from previous years include Interstate Distributor, ($4.85 million nationwide resolution challenging maximum 12-week leave policy), Supervalu ($3.2 million resolution challenging termination of approximately 1,000 employees at the end of medical leave),Sears ($6.2 million resolution challenging automatic termination policy and failure to accommodate employees injured at work) and Verizon ($20 million nationwide resolution challenging “no fault” attendance policy).

In fiscal year 2013, the Commission’s outreach, education and technical assistance efforts focused on increasing voluntary compliance with federal equal employment laws and on improving employee and employer awareness of rights and responsibilities under federal employment discrimination laws, especially among underserved groups and in underserved areas. To this end, in FY 2013 the EEOC reached more than 60,000 individuals with information concerning the ADA through 850 outreach and education events. This is in addition to the hundreds of thousands of people educated about the ADA over the past 24 years.

The Commission has developed a robust catalogue of technical assistance documents on the ADA as well as publications outlining how the law may apply to medical conditions, and the workplace rights of individuals with those conditions. On May 15, 2013, the EEOC issued updates on four of these documents to address how changes in the definition of “disability” as a result of the 2008 Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) may affect who is covered under the ADA. The revised documents include the following:
•Cancer in the Workplace and the ADA
•Diabetes in the Workplace and the ADA
•Epilepsy in the Workplace and the ADA
•Persons with Intellectual Disabilities in the Workplace and the ADA

Additionally, the EEOC has recently issued guidance designed to address questions from mental health providers concerning their role in the reasonable accommodation process, as well as the employment of veterans with disabilities.

We will continue our efforts to eradicate discrimination in the workplace by enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws and educating employers and employees about their rights and responsibilities.